Sailing to Seattle: Meet Yuko Kikuchi

22 March 2016

Seattle resident Yuko Kikuchi says she cannot wait to see the familiar sight of downtown coming into Bell Harbor as she sets off on the Seattle Pacific Challenge race from Qingdao, China.

We caught up with Yuko to find out more about the race of her life.

Name: Yuko Kikuchi
Age: 40
Profession: Real Estate Owner and Developer
Nationality: Japanese
Team: Mission Performance
Signed up for: Leg 3 and 6

I saw a piece on the news about the Clipper Race on CNN five or six years ago. A few things have happened personally since then and I learned that it’s up to me to make time to do things and not say ‘I don’t have time’. I decided to sign up as my 40-year-old gift to myself!

I chose Leg 6 of the race for so many reasons. I have always wanted to cross big oceans but I didn’t know if I would ever gain enough experience to be able to do so, so I thought this would give me a chance. Ishinomaki city is my hometown in Japan, my dad started a family business in the late 80s in Seattle and I’ve been living in Seattle for over 20 years now with my husband. My sister is here with her family as well, so Seattle is our second hometown. When the Clipper Race announced Seattle for Leg 6, I had to switch my Leg 8 to Leg 6 for sure. In addition I travel between Japan and Seattle every other month so why not take a boat instead of a flight this time? It will just take 30 days instead of 10 hours!

What I heard from past Skippers and crews is that Leg 6 is “the hardest”. We will find out soon why it’s the hardest. I’d like to see how the Pacific is different from the Southern Ocean, the colour, smell, swell, current, weather pattern and of course wind. It is fascinating to think all oceans are connected but so different from each other.

It might sound stupid for some people but waking up per watch schedule is really tough for me. I can sleep in any conditions but like to have a good straight eight hours sleep…I learnt from Leg 3 across the Southern Ocean that when I’m tired especially, I need to stay focussed, listen carefully to the Skipper and other crew, and be alert to the surroundings absolutely all the time so the boat stays at the fastest speed possible. We happened to run into problems right before our watch was over one night, and we came to the conclusion that we started relaxing before our watch was over because we know we would be resting soon, so it is important to stay focussed until we hand over to the next watch team.

I want to learn the sailing skills on this size of boat again which is so different from smaller boats. I also want to be able to read the weather. I want to regain the basic common sense or life skills that we sometimes forget because of all kinds of new technologies which make our life easier but lazier as well. I hope to apply my experience to my personal and professional life.

Some people might be still thinking I’m taking a luxury comfortable cruise and it’s difficult to fully explain the experience because what the Clipper Race provides is more than just sailing. My mom doesn’t like me to take adventurous trips so I didn’t tell her until one week before my Leg 3 trip and she almost fell off her chair. I’m very fortunate to have great support from my family, friends and my team in Seattle and Japan, and without this support, I couldn’t do this challenge and life time experience.

Sailing to Seattle is exciting, satisfying and emotional and I’ll be happy to see my family and friends.

To discover more about the city of Seattle and some of the events planned during the fleet’s visit, click here.

If you would like to join Yuko and race the world’s oceans in a future Clipper Race, contact our Crew Recruitment team to find out more here.